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New Leadership in Albany

This week we saw a major shift in leadership at the state's Capitol. Senator Dean Skelos stepped down as New York State Senate Majority Leader amidst rising pressure from lawmakers and good government groups.

New York State Senator John Flanagan was selected by his colleagues as the new Senate Majority Leader.  Senator Flanagan was first elected to represent part of Suffolk County in 2002.  Prior to serving in the Senate, he served for 16 years in the New York State Assembly.  The American Heart Association worked closely with Senator Flanagan in our efforts to get students trained in CPR prior to graduation.  And we look forward to working with him to combat heart disease and stroke, the state's No. 1 and No. 5 killer of New Yorkers.

Please join us in welcoming Senator Flanagan to his new position and ask him to help in the fight against heart disease and stroke by clicking below:


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Pulse Oximetry is Two Years Old!

While to some, May 8 may just seem like any other day – to North Carolina advocates, this is a day to celebrate an anniversary. On May 8, 2013, the Pulse Oximetry bill was signed into law by Governor McCrory.

Even though the policy journey is never easy, knowing that lives will be saved make it all worthwhile.

Valerie King, NC Advocacy Coordinating Committee member, YTC advocate – and most importantly, mom to 7 year old Greta who, shown here, was born with a congenital heart defect, shared her thoughts on this two year anniversary: "The Pulse Ox bill was not the easiest to convince our legislators to work for but we have some persuasive stories. These little heroes go through so much in their small lives how can we not fight for them?  Two years ago today, 2 dear friends and parents of CHD warriors got to stand with Gov. McCrory and watch him sign this bill into law. I have spoken to a number of families that are thankful for the work that was put forth by a wonderful team. I am simply proud to have been a part of it, and have the opportunity to know that these babies will have a better chance of survival by these defects being detected sooner!"

Kathryn Rose, another NC resident and parent, wants others to know how much of a difference this law has made in her life and to her family: "Even after having great prenatal care, high-tech ultrasounds, an uneventful delivery and perfect newborn assessment, our son had absolutely no sign of health concerns. He was a healthy baby boy ready to go home after twenty-four hours, but the pulse oximetry test results sent him to the NICU. … This simple pulse oximetry check bought him time to grow a little stronger and gave the doctors two days to observe all of his little parts. Thanks to this legislation, more North Carolina newborns with heart defects will be identified early and interventions started under the care of great medical staff. Our son has had a chance to grow up into a strong and courageous toddler!"

While at times the policy process can seem long and drawn out, as we celebrate May 8th all across North Carolina, we want to take this opportunity to thank our advocates for helping us save lives. Your advocacy is making a difference. Thank you for being a lifesaver.

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CPR Smart School Honor Roll

American Heart Association's CPR Smart School Honor Roll released...

Congratulations to the following districts and schools in New York State that have been recognized as "CPR Smart" thanks to their commitment to teaching CPR and AED instruction to students:




  • North Rose-Wolcott Central School District
  • Greece Odyssey Central School District
  • Fairport Central School District
  • Port Richmond High School
  • Juan Morel Campos Secondary School
  • Shenendehowa Central School District
  • Gregorio Luperon High School for Science and Mathematics
  • Akron Central School District
  • The School for Human Rights
  • Cascades High School

CPR saves lives!  The CPR Smart School recognition is provided to districts in New York State that have a written policy ensuring students receive CPR and AED instruction prior to graduation.  School districts can decide the grade level and class that works best for them.  It's that simple.  For more information and an application, email  

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CPR SMART Schools Take Off in NYC!

It all started with Staten Island's Port Richmond High School back in February...they were honored as New York City's first CPR Smart school during American Heart Month.  Then came the Juan Morel Campos Secondary School in Brooklyn.  Not to be outdone, Manhattan achieved their first CPR Smart designation in April when Gregorio Luperon High School for Science and Mathematics made their promise to train every student in basic CPR.  (See a great article here from our friends at El Diario - I've never sounded better! -  Then last week, two more schools from Brooklyn and Manhattan joined our growing list of city schools who are prioritizing this lifesaving training for all of their students.  Congratulations to the School for Human Rights (Brooklyn) and Cascades High School (Manhattan)! 

Here are some great photos of the presentation to these schools when they participated in our recent meeting of the NYC Board of Directors:

(Left - Board Chair, David Lefkowitz presents the CPR Smart recognition to The School for Human Rights representative Ariana Covington)

(Left - Board President, Dr. Larry Chinitz presents the CPR Smart designation to teacher James Walther of Cascades High School.)

And in case you missed them, here are links to the press coverage from our first two CPR Smart Schools:

Port Richmond -

Juan Morel Campos -

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Hayder Hashim, M.D., New York City

My Dad is Why.

It was a Wednesday evening in June of 2006. I was in my room, studying for my final Gynecology and Obstetrics test, when I heard my mother calling me saying "your father is not looking right".

He was 57 at the time, in his usual state of health when he started complaining of a left-sided chest pressure he initially felt that morning while teaching his students basic Tennis skills.

I ran frantically to his room on the other side of our home to find him so restless.  “It feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest” he screamed in pain. As a fourth year medical student, I was running down a list of different diagnoses in my head, trying so hard to keep a "heart attack" at the bottom of my list.

We rushed him to the nearest cardiac center, and sure enough, he was diagnosed with a heart attack. He received the required treatment and was thankfully discharged home after two day hospitalization.

Through an interesting journey many years later, I found myself practicing medicine and specializing in cardiovascular diseases.  I know my dad is why I became so passionate about healthy living and health promotion.

When I joined the American Heart Association as a volunteer, I wanted to do my part to raise awareness about heart disease.  My goal was to keep families together for longer, to give them an opportunity to live and experience special moments such as a child’s college graduation, a daughter's wedding and the birth of a grandchild.

Through my work with the American Heart Association, I was able to play a role in increasing awareness about Hands-Only CPR. We are still working on the proposal in New York State that will ensure high school students are trained in basic CPR prior to graduation.  I was privileged to be one of the nearly 100 advocates who traveled to Albany last year to ask our Legislature to support this policy.

More recently, I joined the American Heart Association’s efforts to help fight obesity, a disease that has been troubling our population for generations. Obesity leads to many chronic illnesses, most of which are “silent killers” such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.  Testifying in front of the Assembly committees address sugary drink legislation was a tremendous experience.

I will continue to fight against all the bad habits that I have seen throughout the years that have led to many catastrophes in my patients’ health. For a better, healthier and longer life, please join our efforts to make a difference.

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Highlights of PA Advocacy Day 2015

On April 20, 2015, dozens of dedicated American Heart Association volunteers from across Pennsylvania converged on the State Capitol to raise awareness of important heart and stroke-related policy issues.  For a number of attendees, this was their first-ever advocacy day, and they found it to be a very informative and rewarding experience. 

As part of the day’s event, AHA hosted a press conference focused on CPR as a graduation requirement.  In addition, we were thrilled to have the smoke-free bill sponsors, Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) and Representative Tom Murt (R-Montgomery), take part in the press conference to show their support for AHA and the clean indoor air issue. 

Throughout the day, volunteers took to the Capitol halls, speaking to Legislators and their staff on three specific issues: 

  • Tobacco Taxes.  Governor Tom Wolf has proposed to increase the cigarette tax by $1 per pack and levy a 40 percent wholesale tax on other tobacco products.  Study after study shows that increasing tobacco taxes reduces youth smoking, helps adult smokers quit, and reduces smoking-related deaths. 
  • Hands-only CPR Training in Schools.  AHA is leading the way to support efforts that would ensure students graduating from high school are provided with a hands-only, 30-minute CPR training.  We believe that learning the basic skill of physically administering CPR will ensure every high school graduate is ready to step up and save a life.
  • Clean Indoor Air.  For many years, AHA has supported strengthening Pennsylvania’s smoke-free law, known as the “Clean Indoor Air Act.”  The law was enacted in 2008 and contains over a dozen exemptions, far more than any surrounding state.  These workplaces, where smoking is permitted, exposes Pennsylvania workers, and the public, to the dangers of secondhand smoke.  Legislation has been introduced in the House (House Bill 682) and the Senate (Senate Bill 567) that would remove the exemptions. 

The efforts of our volunteers truly made an impact in Harrisburg!  Their involvement, personal stories and engagement are an important part of how we fulfill our mission of building healthier lives, free from cardiovascular disease and stroke.


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How do we become a CPR SMART School?

You've asked...and we're answering!  Everyone is buzzing about how to receive AHA's CPR Smart School designation in New York.  It's easy...a district just needs to implement a written policy that calls for students to learn CPR (yup, that includes performing compressions) and about AEDs.  The policy must ensure all students learn this lifesaving skill prior to graduation.  School districts can decide the grade level and class that works best for them.  It's that simple.

Do you want to apply to become a CPR Smart School?  Simply email for more information and an application.

Here's to everyone becoming CPR Smart!

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A Great Week for CPR in Schools!

This week, the State Education Department (SED) issued the highly anticipated CPR in Schools Report to the Board of Regents.  Following the presentation, the Regents openly discussed including CPR and AED instruction in the curriculum.  And the support from the Board of Regents was overwhelming!  Members noted the costs are likely lower than presented in the SED report. Other comments included:

 “Yes, great thing to do..”

“…Wholeheartedly support”

“This is something that can save lives.”

“…who wouldn’t support this”

“To save one life warrants the expense.”

 Board members were clearly moved by the outreach from all of you!  This included the action alerts, letters and media advocacy!

Today, the report was on the agenda as a discussion item.  Following the recommendations from today’s meeting, the next step is to make it “official” thru regulations. 

  • SED staff has been directed to develop regulations to present to the Board of Regents for next month’s meeting.
  • The regulations will then be published for public comment (as required by law for regulations).
  • Following the public comment period, the Board of Regents can officially adopt the regulations on CPR/AEDs in Schools.

Thanks to everyone for staying with us thru this long journey!  We will continue to send letters to thank the Regents for their support and commitment until the regulations are formally adopted.  And we hope many of you will join us at the State Education Building for the final vote!

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Congratulations to Shenendehowa on becoming the Capital Region's first CPR Smart School District!

Nine out of 10 victims of sudden cardiac arrest die. If you live in the Shenendehowa Central School District, your chances of surviving sudden cardiac arrest might be higher than average, since students in that district all learn Hands-Only CPR before graduation. Teaching CPR is part of the district’s formal policy. The American Heart Association has recognized Shenendehowa as the first school district in the Capital Region as a CPR Smart School. Shen students clicked to the beat on Stayin' Alive to show just how easy it is to perform Hands-Only CPR. 

 “It’s our great pleasure to recognize Shenendehowa as a CPR Smart School,” said Bob Elling, paramedic and chair of the New York State Advocacy Committee of the American Heart Association. “We know that having CPR performed doubles or triples the chances of survival for victims of sudden cardiac arrest. On Monday, members of the New York State Board of Regents expressed support for CPR in Schools, and are now calling for regulations so that all New York students learn Hands-Only CPR before graduation. Shenendehowa has shown great foresight – and concern for its citizens – by creating an army of lifesavers in this district before law requires it.”

 To qualify for the American Heart Association’s CPR Smart program, school districts must implement a written policy whereby students learn CPR and AED use prior to graduation. 

Sudden cardiac arrest survivor Jeff Keene also shared his story of being saved by CPR.  And his wife also shared what it was like to watch.  “On Christmas day, 2007, while at church, my husband went into cardiac arrest.  Within minutes, he could have died,” said Julie Keene, who works for the Shenendehowa Central School District.  “Because one person, a complete stranger, had the courage and knowledge to begin CPR on him, he is alive and thriving today.”

 “As a district, we have a firm commitment to providing our students with a wide variety of experiences and skills,” said Dr. Oliver Robinson, superintendent of Shenendehowa Central School District. “The ability for them to save a life by learning CPR is of tremendous value. We applaud the efforts of the American Heart Association to make this a given component of the school curriculum.”

 "Clifton Park & Halfmoon Emergency Corps is proud to partner with the Shenendehowa School District in providing CPR and AED training to its staff, which will strengthen Shenendehowa's solid commitment to their student and staff safety,” said Eric Hanchett of Clifton Park Halfmoon EMS, who has worked with Shen staff on training students in Hands-Only CPR. “By translating our real life experience and expertise, we can offer simplified, Hands-Only CPR & AED training, creating empowered students who will be ready and confident to take life-saving action when needed. We are excited about this collaboration and the potential we have to build a safer community together."

 The student were led by their Health Education teacher, Pam Woloszyn. 

“As a health educator, we have a responsibility to not only teach students the skills to perform CPR, but first and foremost to make them feel empowered to step in and ACT!” said Pamela Woloszyn. “Hands-Only CPR truly gives everyone the opportunity to save a life and that’s what I try to inspire students to do.  Through empowerment and inspiration comes engagement and the students feel they truly can make a difference and help others in a time of crisis.”

 “The district has provided education in CPR and AED for over 15 years,” said Rebecca Carman, director of policy and community development for the Shenendehowa Central School District. “This is a program that has little cost to the district. CPR is a life skill that every student should be exposed to.”

Thanks to all the students, board members, teachers, school administrators and Dr. Robinson for supporting this lifesaving lesson!

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